A little home sewing to beat the heat

Liner for blinds

That merciless Florida sun on my windows. It’s brutal and really heats up a room. When I first moved into this house – which faces east and has lots of windows in the front bedrooms – my electric bill was about $200/month. Trying to manage the heat and diminish the morning light in these bedrooms, I used blinds and heavy ‘lined’ curtains (even though I don’t like curtains because they collect dust and aren’t really my style).

About 5 years ago, I purchased blackout liners for the windows and hung them on simple tension rods behind the blinds. What a difference! But over time, with the rising sun, they started to disintegrate. Amazing. One of my spring projects was to (1) ditch the curtains, (2) replace all the blinds in the bedrooms, and (3) make new blackout liners.

It took me 2 weeks! most of it spent taking down curtain rods and blinds and cleaning up behind them. I had so many leftover holes in the walls and window frames, and the window frames looked dingy.  Spackle, sandpaper, and paint… I’m not as strong as I was in my fifties, but I’m still stubborn – I just had to pace myself.

These liners really work, and I love not having the curtains. My bedroom at 8:00 on a sunny morning. Dark, cool, perfect.

no sun 0

Making the liners was the easiest part of this project. I used Roc-Lon blackout fabric from JoAnns, white on white. It’s 54″ wide, which is perfect for a single panel on even my widest (52″) windows.

I didn’t hem the sides or bottoms of the panels – this ‘fabric’ doesn’t ravel. The only sewing was to make a header for the stension rods. On the machine, I used my walking foot, lowered the pressure on the presser foot, and used a 80/110 needle with regular sewing thread.

Liner for blinds (2)

It’s not a dress! but I’m really enjoying the results – new blinds, no curtains, cool, dark rooms.

That electric bill. I’m the only human in this house, so I knew most of it was for the A/C. Using window liners made a big difference. But improvements over the last 4 years have had an even greater impact – a new roof, exterior house painting that included re-sealing all the windows, a new A/C handler and compressor, a new insulated/hurricane proof garage door, and additional weather stripping around doors. These were big ticket items for the most part, but they pay off – now my average monthly electric bill is $70 – $80. And the savings have really helped my fabric stash and hopefully made my eco-footprint a little smaller!

Bye for now – Coco

Vogue 9168 Kathryn Brenne dress – end of story


And I mean it this time!

I’ve been messing with this dress since the third week of March. When I first wrote about it (here), I mentioned that it was well-drafted (it looked just like the envelope pic), but it was uncomfortable to wear. It was destined for a re-do in the fall. But it has been on the garment rack in the loft, and it’s been bugging me. So this week I took it on once more.

A pattern refresher – ALL of the pieces, except the sleeve, are cut on the bias. I actually cut my back bodice on the straight grainline as well:

I decided to (1) put back the original flutter sleeve – it’s perfection and will be re-used, and (2) raise the waistline. The sleeve business was easy, and they’re beautiful. The waistline adjustment was a terror!

I carefully removed the skirt from the bodice and got to work. And I re-worked it 4 times! This is a rayon crepe fabric, and all those bias cuts just kept on growing and growing. I just couldn’t get and keep a straight seam in the front bodice edge.

Even the final version shows a new dip since it was finished this morning (the arrow). Looking past that, the double pleats in the front bodice are very flattering. They fit more closely than the original pattern, because I crossed the center front a bit to raise the neckline.


 The back is very pretty, no problems there.


An inside look – the waist has a narrow casing  with 1/4″ elastic.


I know there are ways to stabilize the waist – a buckram waist stay, invisible side zip, etc. but I can’t wear those against my skin, and am not about to wear a slip. This hot and humid Florida, and I’m into easy dressing.

I’m glad I continued to work with this dress, which is now officially out of the house. I’m done with bias cuts! but I learned a lot. I certainly know why all those movie star bias-cut dresses have unstructured, dipped and draped bodices.

To close – here’s the same fabric, in a different colorway, in the StyleArc Toni Designer Dress (posted here, way back in November). Much better marriage of pattern and fabric. And I love the colors!


Okey dokey – I’m off to more fun stuff! Bye for now – Coco



Sewing the birds…


And I mean lots of birds! This is such a cute print, but I know the pics don’t really showcase it well. The birds are little!

The fabric is a rayon/lycra from Fabric Mart , and it was a bit of a surprise when it arrived. It’s heavy and very stretchy in both directions. Hmm. I went looking and found it on Craftsy, which does a nice job of giving the fabric particulars. So – this fabric is 8% lycra, and it’s hefty at 8.8 oz. I knew finding a good application, other than leggings, would be dicey.

So I started with a Bantam Vest from the Merchant & Mills Workbook. It’s one of my very favorite patterns for sleep tops and layers under cardigans, and I make it in both knits and wovens.


bantam 2

Working with the vest gave me lots of opportunity to find the right tension, pressure, and stitch length for this spongy fabric, on both my sewing machine and my serger. The ripper got a bit of a workout…

bantam 1

Next up, I cut out ‘my’ sharkbite tunic, the one that started as a Tessuti Frankie dress and got completely redrafted. I never did make a Frankie dress – that pattern just didn’t work for me (small armscye, narrow sleeves – those critical bits).


A couple more pics – this is fun to wear! A little sassy…



On other fronts, I’ve been freaking out because my fabric stash is pitiful. And I only have one fabric that’s suitable for spring and summer. What to do…

Solution – I ordered 3 woven cottons from Hancocks of Paducah, all on sale for 5.99/yard. BTW, the best places to lurk sales for premium quality quilting cottons, IMHO, are Hancocks of Paducah and Hawthorne Threads.

new fabric

Feeling calmer with fabric on the way, a parting shot, retro to the max – Easter 1959:

easter 1959

Ciao! Coco

Diane Kimono Dress to the rescue…


OK – my recent wadder with this fabric has really been bugging me. I had such hopes for the fabric, and I’m very reluctant to give up on things.

So, I removed the bodice, cut a new one from the Serendipity Studio Diane Kimono Dress (fortunately I had left-over fabric ), and made a new dress! A look at the old yucky dress and the Diane pattern:

The skirt on the original was from the Diane dress anyway, so it just made sense to try it. Bonus – I discovered that the Diane works really well with challis. I was thinking it wouldn’t, that it would be too drapey. But it has just the right amount of swish 🙂


My original was hemmed at midi length, so I added a gently gathered 7.5″ ruffle/flounce to the bottom of the skirt. Squint, you’ll see it – it’s much more obvious in real life…


Rayon challis is obnoxious to gather on the sewing machine, so I made the ruffle on my serger. A couple notes on this:

  • I used two needles, 4 threads. This makes the serged/gathered edge a little ‘sturdier’ than a 3-thread ruffle.
  • The gathering is soft, maybe a 1.3:1 ratio at the most, because I didn’t want a frou-frou ruffle on this A-line skirt.
  • I enjoy new techniques, so I did a test with my serger gathering presser foot, unused until today. It creates a ruffle and attaches it to the main fabric all in one pass.  But the gathering was inconsistent, and it was a real pain to hold the two fabrics in the right position as they moved forward. Challis is shifty even when it’s behaving! I’m curious, though, and plan to do more tests with other fabrics.


So – end of the day, in the late afternoon sunlight in the kitchen – I’m really glad I didn’t give up 🙂

Ciao! Coco


Sunday silliness…

snail fashion week by marcos noel

I think my sewing has  been influenced by the full moon and the cold front that came through here on Thursday…

Bad bad wadder.

The colors are all wrong for me, and it’s so drooby (borrowed that word, thanks!).  I used the bodice from the V8577 shirtdress and the skirt from the Serendipity Studio Diane Kimono dress. I think the fabric blew it. Terrible.

And this V1297 Sandra Betzina dress is simply too big. Even the sleeves are too long. Worse, I didn’t even notice until I took these pics. I sewed it three times last year, so I whipped up this one in no time. Ha.

But I’ll fix it.

Bye! Coco